Watching my husband shave and brush his teeth is one thing: helping him do these things is quite another. It’s intensely intimate and tender.
Warming the face cloth, softening the bristles. Smoothing shaving cream ever so gently on half his face. Using a very sharp razor and drawing it down his face, making sure his skin is clear and smooth. Moving his breathing apparatus ever so slightly to give a good shave. Using a good aftershave balm to protect dry and sensitive skin. Having him run his hands over his face to see if I have missed anything. His quiet smile and tired eyes that say thank you, that’s good.
And teeth care with a water jet and an electric toothbrush takes on a whole new light. It really can be done without a sink and without running water. You need an empty container and you need electricity or at least fully charged batteries. He wields the water jet at this point but I am watching closely, for the time will come when I will do that. He washes his teeth and spits into the container. When he is satisfied, I hand him his toothbrush and a glass of water. He cleans and spits and rinses – I am going to learn how that works too, when he can’t raise his arms any more.
Bathing is easy: I bathed a baby; I know how this works. This baby is big but he is totally cooperative and so pleased to be clean. He submits to my washing and moving his limbs totally. He is compliant and he is appreciative and I am touched.
But shaving and teeth cleaning is hard: hard, essential and ultimately intimate.
Bea Toews is a regular Five Good Friends contributor and full time carer for her husband Peter. “In my life I have been many things; teacher, mother, grandmother, writer, magazine editor, journeywoman. I’ve lived, worked and explored the world over. But right now, my journey sees me navigating the unchartered waters of caring for a fiercely independent loved one and all the emotional turbulence that goes with that”. Putting this into words is both cathartic and useful in helping me to process what we are both going through. I do this for Five Good Friends so that people in my husband’s and my position, expect more from the ‘help’ and ‘care’ sectors, and get a sense of what it should mean to be properly looked after”.